REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Chinatown (deluxe edition)

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THIN LIZZY – Chinatown (2011 deluxe edition)

Thanks again Amazon!  I recently collected all the Thin Lizzy Deluxe Editions.  Eventually, I’ll review them all.  Today, I’m doing one of the lesser known albums, 1980’s Chinatown.

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You know, it’s funny how perspective changes. When I first got this album a few years back, “Sugar Blues” was my least favourite track. Now, it’s my favourite. Just listen to that Snowy White guitar solo with headphones on, and dig into that driving rhythm.  Incredible.

In general, I enjoy Chinatown a lot more now. There are some strikingly great Thin Lizzy tunes on here, albeit a bit less complex than previous albums. “Killer On The Loose” remains a great heavy metal song with brilliant soloing courtesy of Gorham. “We Will Be Strong”, the slightly understated opener, is also a personal favourite. It may not be loaded to the gills with familiar songs, but Chinatown is still a fine Lizzy platter.

Another winner is “Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo)”.  Some might wonder what right an Irish man has to criticize what the white American did to his land.  I think it’s a pretty straightforward and clear-cut position.   It’s also a great song, riffy and solid.

“Having A Good Time” is an enjoyable romp (Phil’s cheerleading being infectious) with yet another Snowy solo that just sails. It just rides the song beautifully and elevates the whole thing. Personally, I think Snowy’s work with Thin Lizzy has been among the most interesting.  He may not have been the “right” guy for Lizzy (discuss!) but his work cannot be dismissed.  As an interesting bluesy sideroad, the Snowy White era of Thin Lizzy is as compelling as the previous eras.

This deluxe edition adds a bonus disc of extra goodies that is well worth the price. (At press time, selling for about $17 on Amazon.ca, although I paid $32.50 CAD when it was just out.)  The B-side “Don’t Play Around” is stellar. While the live take of “Sugar Blues” is previously available on the Thin Lizzy box set (smoking solo by the way), “Whiskey In The Jar” is a really interesting version. Performed as a trio by Phil Lynott, Brian Downey and Midge Ure (apparently because Snowy and Scott don’t know the song?), it’s a very different, simplified version of the song but no less catchy.

As with all Thin Lizzy deluxe editions, there’s an extensive booklet with photos, facts, figures, interviews, and so on.  I enjoy reading along as I listen.

5/5 stars

36 comments

  1. I was just looking at your pic to see which deluxes I still have to get! I’ll leave out Live and Dangerous cause there’s little on it I don’t already have but I still need to get Nightlife and Fighting. Hope they get round to the other albums soon.

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    1. And don’t forget Bad Reputation, Tales, and self-titled. Although those are all single discs in jewel cases, so I don’t know if you’d consider those “deluxe editions”. But they do have ample bonus material. They’re in my photo too.

      I’m waiting for Thunder & Lightning myself. The vinyl has four bonus tracks not on the CD, so I’d like that to be rectified!

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      1. I’ve got that vinyl with the bonus EP and I’d love a Thunder & Lightning deluxe. I’m sure there’s loads of extras they could put on that.

        I’ve got all those singles. The only ones I’m missing are Nightlife, Fighting and L&D.

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        1. So does LeBrain and so does Meat. By and large I prefer it to Chinatown. Meat has a, shall we say, rather unique way to sing “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)” with his own lyrics.

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        2. Never heard Renegade? Boy, you’ve been missing out. One of Thin Lizzy’s best albums in my book. 8 out of 9 songs are killers. I even hold it superior to the mighty Thunder And Lightning.

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  2. My first Lizzy purchase was the Sykes album,from there I followed him to Whitesnake of course over to Blue Murder and than he kinda fell off of the map…..

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    1. Yeah…well there was the second Blue Murder that nobody really bought (he was the only member left) and then he did the Lizzy thing for a while. But agreed. I haven’t bought or heard any NEW music from Sykes since 1989.

      Always thought he would have fit in good with Ozzy.

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      1. The second Blue Murder album was more a John Sykes solo album, but I think that it is a really good album
        Speaking of Ozzy, John was one of the guitarplayers Ozzy wanted in his band when he found Zakk Wylde.

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  3. Ozzy interesting??….I’m like a million other people he should have worked it out with Coverdale,that Slide It in lineup was classic…..even the 87 album as well

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    1. Yeah, ’87 was almost the same lineup I think…Cozy was gone and Aynsley Dunbar played drums. Wonder what happened with Aynsley? You never hear much about his time in Whitesnake.

      Aynsley was one of the drummers whoa auditioned to replace Eric Carr in Kiss.

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  4. Even that 87 lineup with those guys coulda been classic but olCov fired them all….you know Mike the first time I heard about those guys getting canned was when Coverdale was on rock line ,now I already had purchased the 87 album so I’m listening to rock line and Coverdale announces the whole new live lineup I’m like what happened to Sykes ??? After his name was omitted …..man Sykes got the royal shaft.,its Coverdale used him,than tossed him….

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    1. Yeah I think there is no love lost between those two. Don’t know what happened there. May have been ego and greed. It’s interesting to think that most people got into Whitesnake because of Sykes’ awesome guitar playing.

      Slip of the Tongue was pretty good for me, but I am also a huge Vai fan. I admit it doesn’t sound anything like Whitesnake.

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      1. Well. Whitesnake was huge in Europe long before Sykes joined them, but I guess they were never that big in the States before the 1987 album. But to me, Whitesnake died with that album. It’s a good album, no doubt, but it doesn’t sound anything like the Whitesnake I grew up loving. And Slip Of The Tongue was even worse. Steve Vai should never had been involved with Whitesnake. He’s an amazing player, but totally wrong for Whitesnake.

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        1. Slip of the Tongue is almost love/hate for me. I love Vai, he got me really interested in different kinds of music in the first place. Because of him I later found Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Edgard Varese, all kinds of weird stuff. I love his solo work. If I think of Slip of the Tongue as a Vai album with a commercial rock band, I like it. In that context it’s pretty cool. Vai’s playing on it, while restrained compared to his solo work, is really fun.

          As a Whitesnake, it sticks out like a sore thumb more than any other album, and it was obvious they were chasing hits.

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  5. If it wasn’t for Mike, I wouldn’t own any Thin Lizzy. I REALLY liked what I heard of what he sent. And after reading this, I know I gotta look up this release, too. I really oughta just use your site as a shopping list.

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  6. As a HUGE Thin Lizzy fan, I must say I have always found Chinatown a bit disappointing and still do. It’s not bad, but it’s not as brilliant as their earlier stuff. Or as the two albums that followed.
    Plus, I’m not that big on their three first albums with Eric Bell as the sole guitarist. Nightlife was ok, Fighting was a bit better but it was with Jailbreak that Lizzy became the beast they were known as. After that album, every album they made was brilliant, except for Chinatown. I must say that Black Rose is my favourite Lizzy album if I have to choose one.

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    1. You and I are very close on Thin Lizzy favourites. I think I put Thunder & Lightning in my top spot, but I hold Black Rose in very high esteem. I too am not overly enthralled with the Eric Bell period, although I like the the third album best of those three.

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    1. I’m not sure if Robbo’s album was ever released outside of Europe though, but I know that several tracks are available on YouTube, if you wanna take a listen.

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        1. I think it might have something to do with the fact that the guy is seen by the music industry as a bit of a f**k up and unreliable and the name Brian Robertson alone doesn’t automatically sell records. But an album as good as his latest one really shouldn’t go unnoticed.

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  7. Fantastic write up on an under appreciated album by an even more under predicated band! I’ve acquired almost all these Lizzy Deluxe Editions and so far (need Vagabonds) you and I agree on all fronts (including the sub par bonus material on Johnny). I noticed in your photo the spine of Night life is creased! Same here! I’m a freak for these Deluxe Editions, and aside from not using the plastic slipcase (cheapskates!), these little creases that occur are a real bugaboo for me! Great write up, thanks.

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